Diagnostic Assessment

Even though the words “assessment” and “evaluation” are commonly used interchangeably in our everyday speech, there are subtle differences between them. They differ in terms of scope, purpose, findings and the uses thereof.

Evaluation of individual performance is often accomplished by grading or rating. Evaluation is typically a broader concept than assessment as it attempts to deal with all aspects of a performance. For example, the NIC interpreter evaluation tests knowledge of a range of subject matter related to interpreting, ethical practice and skills performance in several settings.

Assessment is typically used to analyze a particular process associated with performance. For example, how accurately someone interprets or how interpreting performance changes with a change in conditions. Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at improving performance over time, more so than evaluation, which is usually a final (or summative) result. Improving performance from assessment typically occurs incrementally and through planned activities determined from the assessment data.

Defining Diagnostic Assessment

One type of assessment—diagnostic assessment—provides a detailed analysis of performance which can be used for professional development planning and job placement. The overarching goal of diagnostic assessment is to improve the overall quality and accuracy of interpretation between American Sign Language and English through the collection of performance data. It is a system that yields more than the general feedback that might be exchanged based on an observation of an interpreter while they are working. It is a complex and comprehensive process of analysis designed to reveal the current state of linguistic and cognitive competence of interpreter practitioners for the purpose of guiding professional development activities.

Diagnostic assessment also provides a deeper level of insight than a surface level observation. It yields insight into how an individual thinks and uses language while engaged in interpreting. It uses a system of error analysis as the cornerstone for the process which can reveal patterns that exist in an interpreter’s work. The results can be used to guide skill development by examining the impact of various patterns on the overall quality and accuracy of the interpretation and determining priorities accordingly. And, when serious gaps in skills are noted, a plan for remediation can be developed.

The overall impact of diagnostic assessment is that it provides a data-driven assessment of what is currently happening within the work of an interpreter, while simultaneously providing specific guidance regarding how to improve the quality and accuracy of the work. When the recommendations for improvement are followed, the outcome is a more effective and reliable interpretation.

Diagnostic assessment does not seek to ‘credential’ an interpreter or assign a rating. It seeks to understand the nature of a practitioner’s work for the purpose of guiding professional development. It is a valuable tool in making decisions about skill development needs and priorities.

Conducting diagnostic assessments is a common tool for mentors, teachers, supervisors and diagnosticians who work to assist practitioners in advancing their skill sets. To learn more about conducting diagnostic assessments, visit the MARIE Center.